If you want some inaccurate history regarding the Electoral College, conservative writer Bill Whittle offers some in this video clip. Whittle recounts the tale I often hear, especially from conservatives, that the Framers designed the Electoral College as part of a grand plan to give smaller population states more of a role and to make presidential candidates campaign in lightly populated states not just large population centers.
Of course, the logic behind the explanation breaks down even before you get to the history. The electors each state has is equal to the number of U.S. Senators plus U.S. House members. So the number of electors is already roughly proportional to the population in each state. The Electoral College doesn't force candidates to spend time campaigning in Wyoming, Montana and Alaska (3 electoral votes each) versus the hotly-contested larger populous states such as Ohio (20 electoral votes) and Florida (27 electoral votes).
Then you have the situation that 48 of 50 states award electors according to a winner-take-all system, which means that states that lean strongly in one direction or another such as Democratic California (55 electoral votes) and Republican Texas (34 electoral votes) are generally ignored by the candidates. While a straight popular vote election for President would skew where the candidates for campaign, it is actually the state winner-take-all system, which isn't mandated by the Constitution and can be changed by each state, which results in campaigns eschewing spending time in California and Texas. You can bet if Republicans could win electors in California and Democrats could win them in Texas, their presidential candidates would campaign there.
Whittle is flat out wrong on the history. The reasons for the Electoral College is explained in Alexander Hamilton's Federalist Paper No. 68:
THE mode of appointment of the Chief Magistrate of the United States is almost the only part of the system, of any consequence, which has escaped without severe censure, or which has received the slightest mark of approbation from its opponents. The most plausible of these, who has appeared in print, has even deigned to admit that the election of the President is pretty well guarded. I venture somewhat further, and hesitate not to affirm, that if the manner of it be not perfect, it is at least excellent. It unites in an eminent degree all the advantages, the union of which was to be wished for.
It was desirable that the sense of the people should operate in the choice of the person to whom so important a trust was to be confided. This end will be answered by committing the right of making it, not to any preestablished body, but to men chosen by the people for the special purpose, and at the particular conjuncture.
It was equally desirable, that the immediate election should be made by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station, and acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation, and to a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice. A small number of persons, selected by their fellow-citizens from the general mass, will be most likely to possess the information and discernment requisite to such complicated investigations.
It was also peculiarly desirable to afford as little opportunity as possible to tumult and disorder. This evil was not least to be dreaded in the election of a magistrate, who was to have so important an agency in the administration of the government as the President of the United States. But the precautions which have been so happily concerted in the system under consideration, promise an effectual security against this mischief. The choice of SEVERAL, to form an intermediate body of electors, will be much less apt to convulse the community with any extraordinary or violent movements, than the choice of ONE who was himself to be the final object of the public wishes. And as the electors, chosen in each State, are to assemble and vote in the State in which they are chosen, this detached and divided situation will expose them much less to heats and ferments, which might be communicated from them to the people, than if they were all to be convened at one time, in one place.
All these advantages will happily combine in the plan devised by the convention; which is, that the people of each State shall choose a number of persons as electors, equal to the number of senators and representatives of such State in the national government, who shall assemble within the State, and vote for some fit person as President. Their votes, thus given, are to be transmitted to the seat of the national government, and the person who may happen to have a majority of the whole number of votes will be the President. But as a majority of the votes might not always happen to centre in one man, and as it might be unsafe to permit less than a majority to be conclusive, it is provided that, in such a contingency, the House of Representatives shall select out of the candidates who shall have the five highest number of votes, the man who in their opinion may be best qualified for the office.
The process of election affords a moral certainty, that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications. Talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity, may alone suffice to elevate a man to the first honors in a single State; but it will require other talents, and a different kind of merit, to establish him in the esteem and confidence of the whole Union, or of so considerable a portion of it as would be necessary to make him a successful candidate for the distinguished office of President of the United States. It will not be too strong to say, that there will be a constant probability of seeing the station filled by characters pre-eminent for ability and virtue. And this will be thought no inconsiderable recommendation of the Constitution, by those who are able to estimate the share which the executive in every government must necessarily have in its good or ill administration. Though we cannot acquiesce in the political heresy of the poet who says: "For forms of government let fools contest That which is best administered is best,'' yet we may safely pronounce, that the true test of a good government is its aptitude and tendency to produce a good administration.Rather than the explanation offered by Whittle, the Founding Fathers designed the Electoral College to be an enlightened, deliberative body, one somewhat shielded from the whims of democracy. They believed that this deliberative body of electors, assembling in their respective states, would debate and consider information regarding who would be the best to serve as the country's executive. In the situation where a presidential candidate could not muster a majority, the Founding Fathers provided that another enlightened, deliberative body, the House of Representatives, would select the President.
The Electoral College has not at all unctioned as the Framers intended. That does not mean, however, the Electoral College doesn't have some important advantages which Whittle hints at. The Electoral College, for example, does highlight the wonderful federal nature of our system and the role states have in selecting the President. In the event of a close election, recounts are confined to a few states. Imagine the problems conducting a nationwide recount should the selection process be by nationwide popular vote. With the Electoral College, any recount of the popular vote is confined to, at best, a handful of states.
When discussing the Constitution, it is usually liberals who like to rewrite the history regarding the intention of the Framers. But when it comes to the Electoral College, it is too often my conservative friends who get the history wrong.